Friday, August 30, 2013

Cowboy Wisdom -- Horse Lease Risks

I'm in my seventies and own a fine ten year old mare named Kasidy -- she'll be my last horse.  

She should easily live another 20 years, and it's unlikely I'll be riding her in another 10 years because of the osteoarthritis attacking my joints.

I know my horse needs more exercise than I can give her, so I decided to consider half leasing her to an experienced rider. 

A very nice gentleman came to meet Kasidy and took her for a ride.  He fell in love with Kasidy, and I was pleased with his ability as a rider, but when he shared his plans for the horse I immediately went into a defensive mode.  

If someone else was going share my horse they'd have to ride her carefully and make every effort to protect her from injury.

Cowboy Wisdom -- Avoiding Horse Wrecks

Since we hadn't yet signed a lease agreement I decided some "Riding Rules" needed to be put in writing.

There are lots of common sense things I do -- or don't do -- for the good of my horses.  Things like giving them a day off after vaccinations, horseshoeing, or heavy rainstorms.

Like getting off and leading them on long steep downhill trails.  Like avoiding trails with loose rock, or serious deep rills from erosion.  

I don't have the need to prove anything to anyone, and with two damaged, elderly horses in my backyard I've learned we are all better off if we avoid risky trails and try to stay on wider more level dirt roads.  

I got to thinking about some the horse accidents -- cowboys call them wrecks -- I've been involved in as either a participant or spectator.  

Sometimes things go wrong without any warning and there is absolutely nothing the rider could have done to avoid it.  A friend recently said, "Horses are like a suicide looking for a place to happen."  There might be some truth in that.

The Trifecta

Things like the trifecta -- I called it -- a few years back my guardian angel was working overtime to protect me and three different horses I owned from totally unexpected, but very dangerous situations that occurred without warning during a three day span.

Friday: Zinger, my wife's paint horse, and I were racing uphill at a fast trot when he lost his footing on a turn, and came to a sliding stop on his knees.  The only thing that kept me from being pitched over his head was a spur that got caught on my saddlebags.  Neither one of us expected what happened.  In the end Zinger had a pair of scraped knees, and I escaped unscathed.

Saturday: Sunup, my knot-head palomino, was jigging and spinning when he suddenly went over a twenty foot slope backwards.  Somehow he did a 180 degree turn -- in midair -- and managed to land on his feet sliding downhill to a stop.  How we didn't go down is still a wonder I often replay in my mind.

Sunday: Cash, my buckskin horse, and I were at a traffic light.  As we started to move forward on the green light someone behind me suddenly yelled STOP!  My vision had been obscured by a van on my left, so I could not see the car running a red-light at a high rate of speed.  A few more steps and we'd have both been killed.

Horse Falls

There's and old cowboy quote, "It's not if a horse will fall, but when."  It is so true -- here are just a few I've witnessed:

• A sleep walking endurance horse, and her experienced rider do a summersault at a walk.

• A rider galloping across a sagebrush flat hits a badger hole and ploughs up the sod.

• Several horses literally threw themselves on the ground trying to escape stinging bees.

• Horses falling to their knees is so common that each of my horses has done it multiple times.  The reasons vary -- sometimes it's laziness, boredom or just not paying attention to the rider.  Other times it's a misjudged step, a slip off a step up, or loose rock.  Twice I've been on horses who went down when their front feet got stuck in a bog.

Rider Falls

• A bunch of riders were running uphill when one gal's horse crow-hopped, pitched her up in the air, and literally ran out from under her.  We were in a remote area so the rider, who suffered a broken back, had to be taken out on a helicopter.

• Almost any trainer who has worked with jumping horses can tell you tales of horses balking at a jump, and sending their rider flying head first over the jump.

• I've had a horse spook during a gallop, and bolt sideways leaving me in mid-air during the maneuver.

• I've seen a rider shift their weight the wrong way when a horse was spinning, and the rider was literally flung off. 

Bullies, Showoffs, and Idiots

I've known more than a few horses that were hurt by bullies, showoffs, and idiots.

I once boarded my horses where one of the caretakers was an ill-tempered bully.  I watched him punch a horse in the face for being too friendly.  I watched him take water away from a horse during 100 degree weather because he claimed the horse drank and peed too much.  When I saw him take a hammer to a horse that was the final straw, so I moved.

One of my crippled elderly horses was a reining horse in his youth.  He could do wonderful sliding stops and his spinning was a thing of beauty.  But, horses are athletes that can be easily injured if not properly warmed up.  One day I arrived at our boarding ranch unannounced, and caught a horse trainer showing off to a crowd of students on my horse.  Needless to say that trainer was told to keep her hands off my horse in the future.

Alcohol and horses don't mix.  I have a friend who was drinking and riding with a buddy.  They were racing on a bridle path, but couldn't get stopped before they hit a paved street.  My friend now has a few pounds of assorted screws and rods that were used to repair his broken bones.  Another fellow I know lost his horse in a drunken stupor only to wake up, and learn his horse was killed by a car on its way home.

Having thought about all the foregoing incidents I sat down to write some rules for my new lessee.  

Here's what I came up with:

Please be advised:  Kasidy is my horse.  I am allowing a half lease because Kasidy needs more exercise than I can give her.

I do not want Kasidy to be injured as a result of being ridden recklessly by someone else.  Kasidy should have a lifespan of at least twenty more years if she is properly handled and cared for.  

Kasidy is to be ridden by me and the lessee only -- NO OTHER RIDERS.

Horses, like people, can be injured if not properly warmed up before exercise.  

Horses, like people, can be injured on risky terrain, e.g.: excessively steep hills, deep sand, rocky trails and creeks, snow and ice, bogs and mud.  

Horses unlike people can injure themselves if exposed to frightening situations they do not understand.  The lessee agrees to comfort and protect Kasidy and to use extreme caution when approaching anything that scares or alarms her.


• No riding the day after shoeing.

• No riding the day after shots.

• No riding the day after a long ride -- say 5 miles or more.

• No riding the day after a rain storm -- common courtesy to allow bridle paths to dry.

• No long rides on Saturday.  I don't want Kasidy exhausted for my Sunday ride.

• No trailering of horse without presenting lessor with copy of morality and major medical insurance policy covering Kasidy.  Policy must name lessor as additional insured.

• No trailering without advance approval in writing (specific destination with address and contact phone number to be identified).

• No boarding of my mare near stallions unless they are enclosed separately in a minimum 7 foot high enclosure.

• In the unlikely event Kasidy becomes impregnated the lessee and his associates shall have no claim to a foal.

• No swimming of horse -- water crossing of shallow creeks is acceptable.  Kasidy crosses clear water without any problems, but she will not go into black bogs.  DO NOT TAKE HER INTO ANY BOGGY BLACK MUD OF UNDETERMINED DEPTH.

• Kasidy may not be trained by any trainer -- for any reason -- without my approval in writing.

• This horse may not be entered in an kind of extreme cowboy sports or competitions, e.g.: endurance races, barrel races, mounted shooting, or roping events.  My goal is to give Kasidy a long life -- free of pain -- caused by sports injuries.  Kasidy should be used only on moderate trails and quiet gymkhana events such as trail classes or walk, trot and cantor shows.

• No spinning or sliding stops -- other than what is necessary for a safe trail ride.

• Do not run Kasidy on rocky surfaces or in creeks.

• Under no circumstances is Kasidy to be given any over the counter drugs or medicines without first obtaining approval from the lessor in writing.

• Lessee is responsible for Kasidy's veterinarian bills and emergency medical attention as a result of accidents away from home.  Lessor to be advised immediately if it becomes necessary to call a vet.

Horse Leases are not simple

A half horse lease sounds simple.  The lessor and lessee each share half the costs to keep a horse, and each enjoys half time use of the horse.  Or do they?

Here are a few things I put down for consideration of a lease...

Monthly costs per horse (grooming supplies not included):

• hay $100/mo
• grain $20/mo
• shoes $50/mo
• worm medicines $5/mo
• cookies, treats & salt blocks $5+/mo
• fly system share $14/mo
• shavings (stall bedding) $45/mo
• annual veterinarian costs: shots, teeth, physical checkup $33/mo
• stall cleaning $102/mo ($3 per horse per day + share of $60/mo fee city barrels)
• turnout & stall repairs (DG & sand) $26/mo

Total $400/mo per horse (half of the above are costs ($200/mo).  The above listed costs allow no value for the horse or any of the ranch facilities.

Not included in the monthly costs above (estimated at $200/mo):

• putting on and taking off fly masks in summer months.
• blanketing and un-blanketing during winter months
• time feeding twice per day
• time cleaning and refilling water daily (cost of water)
• trips to feed store, and calls to feed supplier, veterinarian, ferrier etc.
• share of value for barn, fencing, gates, electrical system, water system, ranch property, and repairs to same.
• insurance and license fees.

The lessor agrees to take care of all the above, and has included them here for informational purposes only.

Tack and supplies to be obtained by lessee:

• shampoo, conditioner, mane & tail detangler, fly spray,  green spot remover are to be provided by lessee.

• shedding blade, curry comb, brushes (course & fine), hoof pick, mane brush, tote, wash bucket are to be provided by lessee.

• saddle, bridle, "Monte Foreman" bit, reins, halter, lead rope, saddle pads, cinches, fly mask and winter blanket need to be provided by lessee.

The lessor agrees to make the above necessities available for a period of not to exceed 30 days from the beginning of the lease.

Questions that need to be determined:

What is an emergency condition?

Decision to euthanize the horse in the event of colic or extreme injury -- who pays?

So in the end -- after considering all that can go wrong -- I decided that the risk of injury to my horse and the liability for me are just too great to share my horse with anyone.  Kasidy will not be leased to anyone.

If you are thinking of leasing your horse I hope this helps make you aware of things to consider.  If you are thinking of leasing a horse then maybe this will give you a view of the owners concerns.

Happy trails.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, yeah... I think it would be extremely difficult to share what I guess would be something so personal. Almost like leasing out your kids. I've never had a horse and found this and all your posts on horses really interesting. Something I always wanted, but for one (or a hundred) reason(s) or another it was never in the cards. I admire your knowledge and experience.